Neurogenic bowel management for the adult spinal cord injury patient

Bowel function can be markedly changed after a spinal cord injury (SCI). These changes, and the care associated with managing the changes, can greatly impact a person's quality of life over a lifetime.

The purpose of the SIU-ICUD workgroup was to identify, assess, and summarize evidence and expert opinion-based themes and recommendations regarding bowel function and management in SCI populations.

As part of the SIU-ICUD joint consultation of Urologic Management of the Spinal Cord Injury, a workgroup was formed and comprehensive literature search of English language manuscripts regarding bowel physiology and management plans for the SCI patient. Articles were compiled, and recommendations in the chapter are based on group discussion and follow the Oxford Centre for Evidence-based Medicine system for levels of evidence (LOEs) and grades of recommendation (GORs).

Neurogenic bowel symptoms are highly prevalent in the SCI population. Patients with injuries above the conus medullaris have increased bowel motility and poor anorectal sphincter relaxation. Patients with injuries below the conus are more likely to have an areflexic colon and low sphincter tone. Conservative management strategies include diet modification and anorectal stimulation. There are few evidence-based pharmacologic interventions, which improve fecal transit time. Intestinal ostomy can be an effective treatment for reducing hours spent per week on bowel management and colostomy may be easier to manage than ileostomy due to solid vs liquid stool.

By understanding physiology and treatment options, patients and care teams can work together to achieve goals and maximize quality of life after injury.

World journal of urology. 2018 Jun 27 [Epub ahead of print]

John T Stoffel, F Van der Aa, D Wittmann, S Yande, S Elliott

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA. ., University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA., Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, India., University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.